The Main Features of Fishing Kayaks and What to Look For
What is a Fishing Kayak?
Although the origin of kayaks has been traced back as far back as 4000 years, it’s only in recent years that kayaks have been used for fishing. The main reason for their popularity, and continued growth, is due to the relatively low cost. If you want to fish in either fresh water or salt water and don’t want the expense of buying a boat then a fishing kayak is an excellent solution. They also have the added benefit of being able to access locations which may not be possible with a boat.
Essentially, fishing kayaks are standard kayaks that are designed specifically for fishing. They are fitted with various equipment and accessories such as fishing rod holders, gps receivers, hatches, coolers, anchor trolleys, running lights and various other equipment mounts.
Usually they are designed with three main factors in mind, stability, comfort and durability. Speed is normally sacrificed as a result but that isn’t usually an issue as most of your time will be spent fishing rather than moving and, as a rule, when you gain speed you lose stability.
Sit Inside Kayak vs Sit On Top Kayak
Why You Don’t Want a Sit Inside Fishing Kayak
When you think of a kayak I am sure the first image that comes to mind is a sit inside kayak as these are the most common kayaks and they have been around for a very long time. Although sit inside kayaks do have their strengths, they are not that well suited to kayak fishing. Sure they are better for paddling and therefore they are useful for touring due to their speed.
They are also great in white water as you will usually wear a spray skirt which will stop water entering the hollow hull and should you find yourself flipped over, you can get upright in a matter of seconds by performing an eskimo roll. The thing is, that is all well and good if it’s just you and the kayak but when you also add your rods, rod holder, bait tanks and the fish you have caught, then performing an eskimo roll is nigh on impossible.
They are not very practical for either storing or accessing your gear while you are out on the water, something which is an absolute must when kayak fishing. Let’s take a look at why sit on top kayaks are the best kayaks for fishing.
Why Are Most Kayaks for Fishing Sit On Top Kayaks?
If you haven’t already discovered yet then you will soon discover that sit on top kayaks are by far the most widely used kayaks for fishing. Although they are a fairly new design in comparison to traditional kayaks, they are the best kayaks for fishing and here are just a few reason why: -
1. Capsizing is less dangerous as there is no risk of you getting trapped inside.
2. They are virtually unsinkable. They are wider than sit in kayaks which gives them greater stability and there is air in between the inner and outer hull which will keep it afloat.
3. If you do capsize then they are easy to flip back over with very little effort.
4. The added stability also allows you to stand up when needed.
5. They are more comfortable. This is particularly true if you are a larger person, have long legs or if you have limited flexibility.
6. They are easy to get in and out of.
7. They have more storage space.
8. Due to the added buoyancy they can carry more.
9. They have very flexible layout options which can be tailored to you and the type of kayak fishing you will be doing.
Let’s Take a Look at Layout Options
You have a lot less room when fishing on a kayak compared to fishing on a boat so your layout is an important part of enjoying the actual fishing. As with most things in life, you might not get to the ideal layout but you should be able to get to the point where the layout works well for you and is the best possible solution for you and the type of fishing you will be doing.
Rod Holders – this boils down to two options, you have a choice of either flush mounted rod holders or deck mounted rod holders. It is more common to have 2 rod holders just behind the cockpit and 1 (sometimes 2) rod holders in front of the cockpit. The one in front of the cockpit is usually handy for the rod you are currently using as it’s within easy reach. If you’re thinking that it seems excessive to have 3 or 4 rod holders, it’s not. I’ve yet to meet a kayak fisherman that only has one rod.
Fish Finders – once you have your rod holders in place you can look at the best location to put your fish finder. This will go in front of the cockpit and usually between where you knees are and your feet as you need to be able to see it while paddling. As you will most likely have a rod holder on one side, you can locate the fish finder on the opposite side.
Anchor System – although you can simply use a weight and some rope, we recommend you install an anchor trolley. An anchor trolley system allows you to attach the anchor line to the bow or the stern of your kayak. This allows you to anchor your kayak in line with the prevailing conditions – wind direction, swell and tide. This will vastly reduce the chances of the kayak tipping over.
Live Bait Tank – depending on the type of fishing you will be doing you may need a live bait tank. The tank is designed to keep your bait alive while you fish. In simple form they are just large bucket tanks (typically 5 gallons) with a bilge pump attached which hangs off the side of your kayak and recirculates the water. They are usually situated behind the seat but, depending on your kayak, you may have space to locate it at the front. Bait tanks are designed to be freestanding but we do recommend you secure it to the kayak.
There is a lot more equipment that you can add to your kayak but the above is a good starting point and covers the basics. Once you have been out fishing on your kayak you will have better idea what extras you need and how they will add value.
Popular Ways to Further Customize Your Fishing Kayak
Gear Tracks –installing gear tracks will allow to quickly add and remove equipment to your kayak. This is particularly useful if you like to do different types of fishing as you will usually use different equipment for different types of fishing. Some fishing kayaks come with gear tracks already installed.
Flag Pole and Light – kayaks are much smaller than boats and as a result they are not as visible to other boats. A flag and light are a cheap and easy way to make you more visible to other vessels.
Deck Padding – a big benefit of fishing in a kayak is that they are much quieter than boats but the downside is that should you drop something they can become noisy which will scare away the fish. Adding deck padding will maintain your noise advantage, even when you drop something.
Additional Equipment to Keep You Safe
Life Vest – a life vest will keep you afloat if you fall into the water or even capsize.
Radio – should you get into trouble, a waterproof radio will allow you to raise a distress call with the coastguard or nearby boats.
Whistle – This should be attached to your life vest and is also a good way of attracting the attention of nearby boats if you find yourself in danger.
Flares – another way of attracting attention when needed (I’m sure you’re getting the message by now – safety is important. Day/Night flares are the best choice and keep them in a waterproof tube.
Cell Phone – most people have these anyway but just a reminder to take it with you and store in in a waterproof cell phone bag.
Knife – attach a knife to your life vest so you can use it to cut lines if you get capsized and get tangled up in lines etc.
GPS – a waterproof GPS is a great way to know exactly where you are and planning where you want to be.
Compass – having a compass is no brainer. You also need to ensure you know how to use it as this simple, yet effective, bit of kit can help guide you to back to shore in your hour of need. No batteries needed and easy to store, like we said, a no brainer.
Transporting Your Fishing Kayak
Our advice on this is straightforward, choose your kayak for how it will work for you on the water and the type of fishing you intend to use it for. We say this because they are a lot of options when it comes to transporting your kayak and you will figure a way that works for you.
You may read some advice about choosing a smaller kayak as it is easier to lift onto your vehicle or maybe you will be able to carry it short distances. However, the reality is that even the large kayaks can fit on top of a vehicle as long as you use the right roof racks and you can always find a method for lifting it up safely. When it comes to carrying it, you will most likely use a kayak trolley as it is a lot easier.
You will spend a lot more time fishing in your kayak compared to transporting it and that is why transportation should not be a primary factor in deciding the best fishing kayak for you.
Storing Your Fishing Kayak
Obviously it is important to have somewhere safe to store your kayak and you should organise exactly where you will store it before you buy it. Although ideally it should not be a primary factor for deciding which one to buy, you may need to compromise on this to ensure it is stores safely.
You have quite a few options available to help with the storage as you can buy installation racks, slings, stands and weatherproof covers. Your garage is the obvious, and best, choice
If you are going to store it outside then the best option is to have a waterproof cover. If you don’t have a cover then you should store the kayak upside down (water will simply run off the hull) and ideally under an overhang. You can still use a rack or hang it with straps when you store it outside but just make sure the straps of the rack go underneath the scuppers of the kayak. If it is not on its scuppers then you risk getting indentations on the hull. The top of your kayak is usually stronger, and flatter, so will not be prone to any long term damage.
Which Materials Are Used?
The majority of fishing kayaks are made from plastic. The best fishing kayaks are made from rotomolded polyethylene as this process allows it to be made as a single piece of plastic (no joints or seams). This is a very tough material but it is also a flexible and relatively soft plastic. I could bore you with the details of the various manufacturing processes but this page is about helping you choose the best fishing kayak and explaining the whole process is not really needed.
I will say this though, although they are all made of plastic, each manufacturer will produce different grades of plastic so not all kayaks are created equal. Also, if they are not made by using the rotomolding method, they are made by molding two separate pieces of plastic and joining them together via heat fusing or welding.
The downside of this method is that the joints will be a source of weakness and you will find that this will not last as long as the rotomolding method. The price you pay will always reflect the method used as welded kayaks will be cheaper to buy.
A great way to determine the real quality of a kayak is to read the customer reviews as these are by people using it as you will be using it, out in the real world.
Our Choice of the Best Fishing Kayaks
The Vibe Kayaks Yellowfin 100 10 foot Angler Kayak is a sit on top kayak.
Comfort and portability come together in this fully equipped, lightweight fishing kayak - it weighs just 57 lbs. The Yellowfin 100 is the perfect throw and go vessel which features the rather excellent Vibe Hero seat which provides comfort and support on even the longest of days on the water.
It has all the features anglers demand such as 4 capped flush mount rod holders, a large rear tank well, adjustable foot braces, front and center hatches, tackle tray holders and a mounting point for Scotty, RAM and other Vibe mount accessories.
This is a great stable kayak for fishing which can also be used as an all round recreational kayak. Package includes an adjustable, fiberglass paddle. It also has 4 easy grip carry handles to make carrying and transportation that much easier.
When it comes to confidence in their products, Vibe include a limited lifetime manufacturer’s warranty for defects on all kayaks and one year on the parts attached to the kayak. Great for piece of mind.
The Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 110 is an 11 foot sit on top kayak which comes as a great package. Made from a single piece rotomolded polyethylene plastic and weighs in at 62 lbs.
The 11 foot length combined with the 33 inch width offers a great balance between stability and speed. This allows you to maneuver flat water, rivers and tight quarters with ease.
A well balanced hull provides unparalleled performance while the included rudder system saves your energy during those longer paddling days and when you're facing higher winds or strong currents.
The Vibe Hero dual position seat provides comfort and support for long days on the water. You are covered for accessories as it has 4 integrated gear tracks for customized rigging.
Your storage needs are covered with a 20 inch front oval hatch, a rear hatch and a large bungeed rear tank well.
You can easily keep in control with the pre-installed toe controlled rudder system. A vibe paddle completes the package for you.
The Sun Dolphin Journey 10 is an 10 foot sit on top kayak. Made from a Rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene.
This compact kayak is great for lakes and rivers. It is lightweight and is therefore easy to carry. The Sun Dolphin offers great stability while it still at tracks well and paddles with ease.
Storing rods is made easy as it comes with two flush mount rod holders and one swivel rod holder. A large open cockpit with an adjustable padded seat gives you the comfort you need when you are on the water.
The shock cord deck rigging, storage compartment and water bottle holder make it easy to add and store your equipment. Comfort options include adjustable foot braces and protective thigh pads.
The Brooklyn Kayak Company BKC UH-TK181 is an 12 foot 5 inch long sit on top tandem 2 person kayak. This is ready for you and your companion to just pick it up, plant it in the water and go as it comes with paddles, seats and 7, yes 7, fishing rod holders.
As it is 12 foot 5 inches long and 34 inches wide, it has the capacity to hold plenty of gear and support plenty of weight while still maintaining great stability. It weighs in at just 68 pounds.
With its 34-inch beam, it has the stability and tracking to keep you balanced and on course even when the wind and water acts up, and even when you are standing up for the perfect cast. Its intuitive features help make any outing a success, that goes for an afternoon fishing trip, a multi-day camping adventure, and everything in between.
Another thing we like about using this kayak for fishing is that it is nimble enough for a solo paddler and sturdy enough for two full-grown adults and their gear as it boasts a load capacity of 440 pounds.
you can take plenty of rods with you as it has 3 adjustable fishing rod holders and 4 flush-mount rod holders. Two waterproof compartments keep valuables dry, while the rear cargo area secures larger items. Any water that splashes into the vessel will quickly drain out through eight scupper holes.
The 2 x 86 inch high quality aluminium paddles won't get in the way as it comes with paddle rests and when you combine this with the 2 deluxe kayak seats, you will be comfortable every time you hit the water.
The Vibe Kayaks Sea Ghost 130 is a 13 foot sit on top kayak with a rudder system and it also comes with a paddle and a dual position hero seat.
The 130 offers great stability due to its extra wide hull. It tracks extremely well and you will also save energy on long paddles thanks to the rudder system which is included - this is a toe controlled.
All the features anglers demand can be found on this kayak as it comes with 2 flush mount rod holders and 4 integrated gear tracks so you can customize your rigging until your hearts content. A 20 foot oval hatch, large centre console, a rear hatch, tackle tray holders and large bungeed rear tank well round off the list of features.
The hero seat provides comfort and support for long days on the water.
The Vibe Sea Ghost 130 also comes with a limited lifetime manufacturer’s warranty for defects on all new kayak purchases and (1) one year on parts attached to the kayak.
The BKC UH-TK219 is a 12 foot sit on top tandem kayak which is able to accommodate up to 3 people. It weighs in at 70 lbs while boastig a 440 lbs weight capacity.
It comes with 2 paddles, 2 seats and 7 fishing rod holders. It provides stability and making it almost impossible to tip over.The tandem kayak is designed to provide plenty of fun for the whole family or even by yourself.
The paddles supplied are 2-piece lightweight aluminum while the deluxe kayak seats have rear storage pouches for packing even more gear.
It has a rear cargo storage area with a bungee tie down system, 4 carrying handles to make it easier to move, 2 bungee paddle parks and 2 paddle rests. 4 flush mount and 3 adjustable rod holders complete the package list.
The Vibe Kayaks Shipjack 120T is a 12 foot sit on top 2 person fishing kayak which comes with 2 paddles and a 3 position hero seat for added comfort. Ideal if you want to explore and fish with a friend or family member.
The Skipjack 120T is a stable kayak that performs well in surf, rivers, and flat water and is easy to paddle for any age or experience level.
It has added versatility as it can be paddled solo from the center position.
The pre-installed toe controlled rudder system gives your more control as well as saving you energy during long paddles.
Storage is covered with a large center console, 20" front oval hatch, rear hatch and large bungeed rear tank well. What more do you need to get you started.
Vibe offer a limited lifetime manufacturer’s warranty for defects on all new kayak purchases and (1) one year on parts attached to the kayak.
The Sevylor Coleman Colorado is a 2 person inflatable fishing kayak which gives you the flexibility to carry it to locations you might not make it to with a standard kayak. It weighs in at 40 lbs.
Constructed of 18-gauge PVC, a thick tarpaulin bottom and a tough nylon cover, this kayak is durable enough for just about any waters. For added safety, it has the multiple air chambers which will help you get back to shore in the event of a puncture (although we have to say that a puncture is unlikely anyway).
The adjustable seats will keep you paddling comfortably the whole trip. But if you want to move more easily, you can always add the Sevylor trolling motor and store your paddles in the convenient holders.
The Berkley Quick Set Rod Holders let you adjust your pole angle for the ultimate hands-free fishing experience. With your hands free, it's easier to take care of your gear, which stores nicely in the mesh pockets or attached to D-rings